Thoughts in the Trenches

New: I will have an occasional post of more journal-like blogs. An inside look into feelings, activities, thoughts, etc. of my experience as a teacher, or as a teacher-mom, or as a mathy-mom. Frequently, it is my hope, as I grow, to have them quickly followed up by a more professional post. It is not my intent to vent, so I hope you do not find that they are full of grousing. My goal is to share, while also providing a springboard to conversation, or at least of thought.

So, I have so many ideas of posts I want to share. I have been keeping notes in my classes over the past couple of weeks- when students get excited, and when they celebrate the little victories they didn’t even know they wanted to have in over numbers. I also have ideas from my recent trip to the NCTM Regional Conference in Boston, which I followed up with a couple of college tours. I will post them… soon. I want to document them, and I want to document how I am personalizing learning, and I want to document my curriculum growth. But first, I want to connect with something that seems to happen every fall…

Teachers, has this happened to you? Has your year begun to get away from you, and quickly? That is what is happening to me. Best intentions for success in all aspects, has quickly become a game of ‘which priority should I attend to today’? Is planning important? How about assessment? What about utilization of the assessment? Implementation??

I have chosen implementation. Of course, I plan. I have planning down as curriculum is my area of expertise, at least I am hoping so after all of this time and all of the money I spent on my degrees in curriculum. Plus, I just love planning. So, I plan, before AND during my implementation with students. But, the real priority is the learning of students, and with the miracle that is teaching that allows the students to have the power to push all of the teacher “stress” out of the window while I just teach them to love math and to learn math. I choose implementation over all else because if I leave nothing else in my wake after the sunset of my teaching career, it will be that math can be learned, and it can be fun!

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and welcome you to make this a collaborative venture.


Excitement over Content?

I mostly teach middle school math. It’s not usually the subject to which students look forward to returning from their summer. This year I tried to accentuate a version of what I have done in years past- engage students in how awesome numbers are, all while integrating the routines of the classroom. I mean, numbers are cool! So, this wasn’t too much of a stretch!

Early in a school year, one of the main routines that I think is critical to running a successful classroom is to teach what to do when students finish early. For me, if students are doing work that is meaningful, and math-related, for the entire period of time they are with me, the benefits will be plentiful- more teaching and learning time all around… and an exponential potential love for math!

However, teaching students the routine for finding interesting activities takes time in the first few weeks of school. I purposefully made lessons shorter than normal to provide time to practice going to the “extras.” I purposefully engaged the students in activities during the shorter lessons to make math learning fun, so that they would want math to continue after the lesson.

Sure, this year, I gave a few pre-assessments, and I also introduced my weekly skill assignments and procedures, however most of the time we kept it fun, we kept it new, we kept it about the numbers. For example, on the beginning of Palindrome Week, I showed the students a quick video about how this could be the last week until 2111, and then they were able to prove the video wrong with some eager thinking. That was exactly the lesson I wanted them to get out of the video, beyond what a palindrome was. I wanted them to learn to question the internet with their trust in themselves as math thinkers! So proud, so early in the year!! Then I taught them how to use addition to turn numbers into palindromes (403 + 304 = 707) and they were off to find the more challenging ones.

Two of my favorite overheard quotes of the day, from the middle schoolers:

“This is actually pretty easy. I’ve never done this before.”

And then when given the option of choosing what to do when finished my portion of the lesson, a student added, “Yes! We can continue the math!”

Mission accomplished. I have slowly moved into content, this third week of school, but my students are now engaged with numbers, and with math, and with themselves as math learners within our classroom.

There may be errors, but there was excitement… And the early middle schoolers, previously not excited about math, picked up on the concept, and became engaged. We are now ready for content.

Let’s Talk Math!

Welcome to my thoughts, and to this exploration of teaching and learning math, in school and at home. Welcome to my reflection, of education, of a career in transition. Welcome to my documentation of my own learning. Along the way I’d like to interact, to learn and reflect together, to provide you with new ways to approach math curriculum, and to open up a world in which we are all talking math! Thanks for joining me!

I invite you to explore the pages of the site and begin our learning journey by starting a conversation or signing up for updates. I will be posting about my first week soon.